PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Amidst all the violence and trauma people in our area are dealing with, a new mental health service is opening for young people — and it’s using toys and video games as a form of therapy.
A CCSS bus is an innovative new way to help remove the stigma associated with mental health issues.
Often, children experience trauma but have no one to talk to – so this mobile mental health clinic uses play therapy to help relieve stress while making children feel right at home.
Doreen Upshaw is a play and art therapist who said the idea of a mobile mental health clinic came to her in a dream. Usually, she said, her dreams are fleeting — but this one has stuck with her.
“It was so vivid that I started researching to see if this was being done and who to model it for, but it wasn’t,” Upshaw said.
When COVID-19 hit, she lost a lot of her patients because her type of therapy can’t be done with video, so she decided to build something that works for them.
The CCSS mobile unit will serve children ages 4 to 18. She believes they need counseling – just as much as anyone else.
“With children, play is how they make sense of their world. It’s how they connect with people, it’s how they connect with the world, and they start doing that from a very young age. They don’t know how to grieve, and a lot of times, we adults, we don’t know how to relate to them. Play therapy allows them to work that out. If I’m angry because my dad isn’t with me, I can take two dinosaurs and smash them together. I can play guitar or drums .”
And with youth violence so prevalent in Pittsburgh, she thinks this clinic is a fun but private outlet for their feelings while catering to the things they enjoy, like video games and drawing.
It’s an outlet she said is sorely needed after tragedies like the Easter mass shooting in East Allegheny.
“6 people have already signed up, 2 of them are teenagers and unfortunately from that incident, I ended up with three clients,” Upshaw added.
Upshaw said she hopes the stigma of mental health will one day go away — and this mobile clinic becomes a modernizing way to get people the help they need.
“I’d like to see one day a ship that can come into someone’s driveway, someone can look out the window and say, ‘Oh, she’s getting the help she needs, that’s good for her.'” Mental health affects every human being on the planet,” Upshaw said.